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The Commons
Photo 1

Brenda Lynn Siegel

Voices / Dispatch

We don't have a choice anymore

How many of us will put ourselves on the line to protect the values that we have been taught our entire lives as unique to the United States? After the Women's March on Washington, one newly awakened activist takes a look back and ahead.

Brenda Lynn Siegel — “captain, mad scientist, and artistic/executive director” of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, according to the festival’s website ( — has taught residencies, classes, and workshops in yoga and dance to students of all ages at numerous schools and organizations.

Originally published in The Commons issue #393 (Wednesday, February 1, 2017). This story appeared on page D1.

Two Saturdays ago, I marched in Washington, D.C.

After staying up until 2 a.m. crafting my own clear backpack, I woke up three hours later and went through my checklist.

I woke my niece up. We put on layers and headed for the Metro, where two people from the Women’s March helped us to find our way.

In front of us walked three women wearing pussy hats. As the train arrived, we looked inside and saw swarms of more women wearing pussy hats.

We rode uncomfortably but excitedly, sharing how we crafted our backpacks, what we had with us, and why we were marching.

The feeling of excitement and strength was palpable, a welcomed change from the feeling we had all experienced the day before witnessing the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

I felt quite sure that we were on the right side of history and together we could fight.

As we got off the train, we looked out onto the platform packed with women. A rush of excitement and cheering pushed through the crowd.

We as a society had finally heeded the call to resist. We were awake!

This was my first March on Washington. This was my first time truly standing with other women.

I felt the energy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriet Tubman rush through my bones. I felt the energy of my grandparents, who fought for feminism and civil rights.

I certainly felt the energy of my Uncle Arthur, a well-known civil-rights attorney who would back down from the good fight for no one at no time.

Was I scared? Yes! But I was ready for whatever would come.

And I felt the millions of women willing to stand beside me and I, them. The mutual kindness, the respect, and the power in what I saw and heard was beyond unbelievable.

* * *

Today, two weeks later, I still stand strong. But I am perplexed.

Before this march, before this election, I knew that I vehemently disagreed with the political views of the Republican party. But I did not know how fragile our democracy is.

I was not aware that Republicans cared more about power then democracy. I did not know that in the name of power they would fall in line behind someone who can only be described as crazy and evil.

I knew that House Speaker Paul Ryan believed that kids who get free lunch have “empty souls.” I knew that the Republican Party does not believe in helping those who have less.

I knew that there was corruption. I did not know that this corruption would cause our senators and representatives to fall in line with a president who lies. (Wasn’t Bill Clinton impeached for lying?)

They will waste our resources to research something that they know is a lie simply because they know that they cannot hold power without creating rules that will prevent people from voting.

They will put our country in grave danger because they want to win. To them holding power is more important than anything or any of us.

I did not know that our country could be changed completely overnight by executive order.

I did not know that the checks and balances simply do not work.

I did not know that when faced with a blatant illegal and unconstitutional order, only some Republicans would stand up and that they would do so only to make a statement, not to change the outcome.

I did not know that they would stop at nothing to support a president who is openly taking down everything for which we call America.

* * *

So where do we go from here? Where do we go after a full 12 days of almost hourly assaults on our democracy?

We will stand next to those 5 million people across the world — mostly women — who marched. We will stand next to their 20 million brothers and fathers and next to those who could not march and next to those who were too scared to march.

And we will fight back!

We will stand next to the Republican civilians who have stood up in the last week and said, “I didn’t want this. How can I help?” We bring them in to help.

Together, we will resist!

We will stand up and say, “I can’t be quiet anymore!”

We will stand up, fight back, and make sure that they know that though they want to take our country from us, we will not be lying down when it happens.

If you are not ready to rise, will still fight for you. It is time for those of us who have not acted enough in the past to join those who have and stand up and act now. Resist!

We don’t have a choice anymore. We will fight back, or we will fall!

* * *

At the march, I happened to be standing within a group of 30 or so Muslim women and between two women in wheelchairs. As we left, my 17-year-old niece said to me, “Brenda, as we were standing there, I was thinking; I would stand in the line of fire to protect those women.”

She is absolutely right!

How many of you would do the same?

I would not only stand in harm’s way to defend our democracy, I would stand directly in front of people whom this president plans to persecute in order to protect them.

How many of you will link arms with me and protect those whom they are attacking?

How many of you will put yourself on the line to protect the values that we have been taught our entire lives are unique to the United States?

How many of you will stand ready to oppose and resist at every unconstitutional, every immoral, and every illegal act of assault on our people and our democracy that this administration intends to make?

How many of us are willing to go down without a fight?

I know that I am not!

I am for the first time so ready to fight that I forget my fear and charge on.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

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